The big kid inside us all

I know yis all think that I’m a big fool for getting a kick out of wrestling, but as a young male with a leaning towards macho cock-rock, it’s hard not to be drawn to the ass-kicking soap opera that is WWE in one form or another. Debates will always rage as to what the attraction is and how this worldwide phenomenon can turn sensible, mature young men in to rabid, screaming twelve year olds again. The thing that critics don’t seem to understand about wrestling is that the whole thing is not meant to be taken seriously. Leaving aside the more intelligently-challenged fans (most of whom inhabit small towns in West Virginia I’m told), no fans take it any more seriously than they do a TV show, with a touch of sport-allegiance thrown in. We know it’s not real, that it’s scripted and choreographed. We understand that when Kat and Alfie broke up in Eastenders they were just acting – but it didn’t stop us from getting emotionally involved in the characters and their storyline. It’s the same principal.

My point is, that WWE is a live-action soap opera that is just as valid an entertainment vehicle as a TV soap.

The over-the-top storylines range from brilliantly entertaining to deadly banal and/or stupid. Eastenders and Coronation Street have always thrived despite having stupid storylines and boring characters mingling with the good and the great. WWE tells a story using events and characters. Some characters sit in the background for a long time before their popularity with viewers sees them thrust in to a main storyline. Some characters are pushed on us by the writers because they like them and have an idea for them that they want to share – sometimes it works, sometimes it don’t. Sometimes storylines don’t make sense, or sometimes they’re so bad that they’ll be buried by the writers by making a character disappear for a short while hoping that fans forget.

The paragraph above could apply to either WWE or a TV soap. The outrageous antics, over-acting, costumes and makeup, female titillation, excited crowds, hard-rock music and strobe effects are another side of the show and what helps make it unique. Okay so you either ‘get it’ or you don’t. What bugs me is the self-righteous, narrow-minded people who think that because they are not in to it or don’t understand it (of course since they are of superior intellect, they do of course understand that it is just rubbish), it gives them a right to question the sanity and/or intelligence of the millions over the age of 16 who do.

To once again compare TV soaps to WWE, as you get older your interest in it changes. The advent of the Internet in the early-90s brought what they call ‘dirt sheets’ to the masses. Sites like http://www.pwtorch.com thrive by reporting not just the on-camera, in-ring news but also the behind-the-scenes news and rumours that are probably just as intriguing. The political wrangling that goes on backstage adds another dimension to what you’re watching. For example top stars like Triple H, Hulk Hogan and Shawn Michaels are, or have been, infamous for using their position and power behind the scenes to maintain their top positions within the company. The amount of discussion and rumour that comes from a simple thing like Triple H marrying the boss’s daughter (Stephanie McMahon) is the oil that keeps the wheel turning.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg because I wouldn’t know where to stop. So just take a peek over at the PW Torch site and read some of the columns and postings to find out what I’m talking about.

The point is that last week myself and my brother went to see the WWE Smackdown brand perform at The Point in Dublin – the second of two sold out nights (two nights that sold out in combined ‘minutes’). It wasn’t cheap (about 70EUR) and it wasn’t really like TV (basic decoration, no pyros – although the Point would not be suitable for it perhaps). But they put on a three hour show and the roster who were involved really did make a great effort to entertain everyone. It was funny without being juvenile and although a bit boring in parts, what show isn’t? Even you favourite band are boring at times.

I then listened to a radio debate on the way home where the host, Adrian Kennedy, patronised and condescended WWE fans by calling it nonsense and not even knowing (or at least claiming not to know) what the initials WWE stood for, behaving unprofessionally and showing a complete lack of respect for the topic at hand. We’re not talking about some sort of pedophilia organisation here. He brought on some guy then that claimed his son had broken his neck while doing a wrestling move and used this as a springboard for an attack on wrestling fans in general. The focus of his argument was not on how dangerous it was (a debate in itself) but rather that people who indulged in it as a pastime were simple and a bit pathetic.

I’m afraid the only pathetic thing about it all is that being complete ignorant on a subject, as Adrian Kennedy and the mouthy sidekicks he wheeled on to the show that night, gives you free reign to cricitise and make no attempt to understand. It would be equivalent to me coming on a radio show and slagging off opera because it bores me to tears. “Some fat woman screaming her lungs out in Italian? Is that it?” But then again I’ve had to listen to people slag off heavy metal since I was 15 so my shoulders should be broad enough by now.

We live in a world though where the lowest common denominator isn’t defined by what people are in to, but rather how people react to what they’re not.

Show some tolerance, it doesn’t cost anything. For those of you with any quality of character, the pictures from our enjoyable night out are at http://www.clubi.ie/grizmond/misc/wwe0405.htm.

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[Movie Review] The Terminal

The TerminalStarring: Tom Hanks, Stanley Tucci, Catherine Zeta-Jones
Director: Steven Spielberg
Genre: Drama
Cert: 12
Released: 2004

Spielberg, the most celebrated director in modern cinema, is 58 years old. Is the old man just getting mellower these days? Considering the top-heavy subject matter of “Schindlers List” and “Saving Private Ryan”, the thriller cat-and-mouse of “Catch Me if You Can”, and the dark, engrossing “Minority Report”, the last thing you would expect from him is an Indiana Jones sequel and a movie like “The Terminal”.

“The Terminal” is fluffy, lightweight, inoffensive. There is no disappointment to be had from it unless you go in to it with a mindset of “this is a Steven Spielberg movie – blow me away”.

Viktor Navorski (Hanks – “Catch Me if You Can”, “Saving Private Ryan”, “Castaway”) has arrived at JFK airport on a flight from the former Soviet state of Krakhozia (awful made-up name). Unfortunately while he was in the air, a military coup in his home country has overthrown the government and the United States will no longer recognise Krakhozia as a valid state until order is restored. Viktor’s command of the English language does not expand beyond reading out the address of his hotel and saying ‘yes’ a lot so explaining this turn of events to him becomes a chore for the airport’s security director Frank Dixon (Tucci – “Road to Perdition”, “The Life and Death of Peter Sellers”). He dumps Viktor in the airport terminal, gives him food vouchers and a pager, and tell him he must stay there until told otherwise. Viktor then spots a news item about the war in his home country and he realises what has happened.

Viktor makes the best of a bad situtation and ends up living in the airport, eventually befriending several of the characters who work there despite their initial suspicion of him. He also finds a love interest in troubled air hostess Amelia Warren (Zeta-Jones – “Traffic”, “Entrapment”) who, commenting on the nature of her job, ironically asks him if he ever feels like he lives in an airport.

“The Terminal” is a love story to all intents and purposes. The endearing main character, brilliantly played by Tom Hanks, is a man who has probably experienced hardship all his life. He finds himself a stranger in a strange land; no money, no home, no friends. He has ‘slipped through a crack’, according to the disinterested director, Dixon. His only concern is that Viktor doesn’t cause any problems for him, especially in light of a potential promotion (and related inspection from his superiors). He can’t understand why Viktor doesn’t just walk out the door and become someone else’s problem. He just doesn’t understand Viktor.

I mentioned quite definitively that the movie is lightweight. That’s not to say it doesn’t dip its toe in to the waters of pertinent observations. Officer Torres (Zoë Saldana – “Pirates of the Caribbean”, “Crossroads”), the immigration officer who denies Viktor access to the US every day, encapsulates every experience that I’ve ever had with US immigration – seemingly mannerless, blunt, emotionless and unreasonable. Spielberg, through Viktor, takes the opportunity to chip away at her until we see another side and opens me up to the idea that perhaps these people are just doing their job as instructed. Another example of this social commentary is when Dixon’s right hand man, Thurman (Barry Shabaka Henley), suggests that perhaps rules need to be ignored in certain situations because America should be about the people… I don’t expect US authorities will take that to heart though. After all everyone is a potential terrorist.

Anyway, I’m going off the point.

“The Terminal” falls down in one key area, and that are the characters. Outside of Viktor, few of them get a chance to develop. Catherine Zeta Jones’ air hostess doesn’t at all come across as likable and in fact you want to warn Viktor off her (which, in defence, is something she herself does). Tucci plays Dixon quite well, but the stereotypical characterisation of a programmed man driven by the rule book, is cliché 101. Other throwaway characters (with the exception of the entertaining cleaner Gupta) with no back-story and little chance for them to develop, leave you a little cold despite all the good deeds and warmth that Viktor brings to their lives.

And that leaves Hanks as the deserving centerpiece of an entertaining film whose two hours+ running time never drags.

3star

[Movie Review] The Amityville Horror (2005)

The Amityville HorrorStarring: Ryan Reynolds, Melissa George, Philip Baker Hall, Jesse James, Jimmy Bennett, Chloe Moretz
Director: Andrew Douglas
Genre: Horror
Cert: 15
Released: 2005

Kathy Lutz (George) convinces her husband George (Reynolds) that a huge house in Amityville is worth pushing It just doesn't look as spooky as the original.themselves to the financial limit for despite the estate agent telling them of a brutal murder in the house the year before.

Before long a series of peculiar and disturbing events leave Kathy and George struggling to keep their sanity.

A remake of the 1970s original, “The Amityville Horror” breaks no new ground. If you’ve seen “The Sixth Sense” or creepy movies in general, then you’ve seen all the tricks before.

The script (by Scott Kosar) is no great shakes. There are some nice sub-plots that make you shiver a bit but really there is little resemblance to the book (no reference to the brass band marching through the living room, the missing money, Kathy’s levitation) and the pace is peculiar from the start.

The last 20 minutes really is turgid stuff and I became ultimately bored with it by then.

Forrest Grump

Things I learnt from my weekend at the Paris marathon.

1. Unlike every race I’ve been in, the organisers of the Paris marathon do not furnish you with safety pins for attaching your bib.
2. Everyone in Paris speaks English-until you need to find out off a race organiser if they have safety pins.
3. 24-hour pharmacies sound like great ideas until you find out that they don’t sell safety pins.

The solution in the end for the above dilemma was to have the pharmacist staple it to my chest. We had a 75% success rate with just one dropping off before the end of the race.

What’s that all about? Imagine packing to go on holiday … Passport-CHECK, Tickets-CHECK, safety pins-CHECK.

The race itself went quite well. I started at the 3h 45m balloon. When you enter the race you predict the time that you are likely to do so that if you are a 200 pound straggler you won’t hold up the people with ability by blocking the Champs d’Elysée with your girth and a trolley of treats. So they have pace-setters who run at the pace that you have predicted for yourself and you identify these people by coloured balloons pinned to their back. They look a bit moronic but you’re hardly going to say this to very fit French people.

My target time in reality was 3h 30m which was an average time of 5min per km.
My times were
1 km 5m 15s
2 km 5m 17s
3 km 5m 08s
4 km 4m 56s
5 km 3m 47s (probably inaccurate)
6 km 5m 12s
7 km 5m 31s
8 km 5m 11s
9 km 5m 24s
10km 4m 41s
11km 5m 18s
12km 5m 16s
13km 4m 09s
14km 4m 54s
15km 4m 49s
16km 5m 13s
17km 5m 03s
18km 4m 44s
19km 4m 44s
20km 4m 36s
21km 5m 12s
22km 5m 22s
23km 4m 48s
24km 4m 51s
25km 5m 16s
26km 5m 08s
27km 5m 10s
28km 5m 46s
29km 5m 02s
30km 6m 23s
31km 8m 06s (probably inaccurate)
32km 5m 10s
33km 4m 54s
34km 5m 22s
35km 4m 56s
36km 6m 04s
37km 5m 43s
38km 5m 15s
39km 5m 56s
40km 4m 34s
41km 4m 18s
42km 4m 51s

These were calculated using a GPS watch I was wearing and are not that accurate in parts – but anyway my finish time was 3h 44m so a little disappointing. But I really did do my best and despite good conditions, I struggled with an injury from about the 8th kilometer on. The last 10km were hell on two feet,

Most importantly, the collection for the Irish Cancer Society currently sits over 1200EUR and everyone has been extremely generous for a very worthy cause.

The rest of the holiday was great. Paris is wonderful, great city. Only problem of course were the smokers in bars and restaurants, something that’s been gone from Ireland for over 12 months. Kind of ironic that I’m collecting money for cancer research and treatment and have to put up with cancer been blown in my face for four days. Hopefully the rest of the world will leave the dark ages, catch up with Ireland and relegate this outcast behaviour to the past.


My Big Fat Obnoxious Ego

Tell me something, are buttons cute? One of the girls in the office brought in their new baby the other week and I was sat at my desk wondering just what the hell I was going to say when it came my turn to offer some verbal. The first thing that flashed in to my head was ‘ahhh, isn’t he/she cute as a button?’. And then I thought: ‘that’s such a bunch of crap’. Seriously, are buttons cute? I mean, yeah, those small ones you get on cardigans can be pretty cute but what about those big brown ones? You know the ones. Normally on ugly raincoats or heavy tweed full-length coats. There’s nothing cute about those. So essentially you are hiding your real thoughts behind a deliberate misnomer. I’m saying your baby is cute as a button but I haven’t specified the type of button I’m referring to. Should I be referring to those big bastarding, ugly things that belong in some sartorial museum, then I’m being hugely sarcastic.

I digress.

This is a big weekend for me. Tomorrow morning I fly to Paris to compete in the city marathon. 26 miles of gruelling this and that. I don’t know why I do it to be honest – part ego, part…actually, it’s all ego. I’ve ran a few half-marathons in Christchurch, New Zealand (2002) and Dublin (2004), and in between I ran the Dublin marathon (2003) in 3h52m. Relatively successful I suppose.

The target on Sunday is ultimately 3h30m but the truth is that it would have to go 100% swimmingly well for that to come off. That’s basically my marathon pace with no room for error or exhasution. In 2003 I hit the feckin’ wall at 20 miles and took 60mins to do the last 10km. I’m a bit more clued in now and my preperation has been better. September 2003 (the month before the marathon) was a washout last time because I ended up working two (literally) full weekends in work on a big project.

I’m running for the Irish Cancer Society and I’m hoping to rake in a similar amount to the €1200 I raised for Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind in 2003. You see? One half of the ego is saying ‘hey look I can run for ages and you can’t!’ and the other half is saying ‘hey I’m raising money for charity!’.

But to take myself seriously for a second, while we all extend ourselves to help those suffering after the tsunami in Asia, it’s important not to forget those who suffer closer to home. There’s always room for one more – you just have to want to move a little and accommodate as much as possible.

I’ll bring you up to date when I get back and we might be seeing a similar sight to below. Glad I grew the full beard since. That goatee just wasn’t working for me.